Saturday, December 30, 2017

The History of NJPW WrestleKingdom (7-9)

Alright folks, this is where it really gets good.  The next four installments of WrestleKingdom are about as good as any four consecutive editions of any PPV I can recall.  I know that sounds hyperbolic but I'm being completely serious.  Read on.....


WrestleKingdom 7 - 1/4/13

What a splendid show this was.  From start to finish, WrestleKingdom 7 delivered at about the highest possible level, including an instant classic main event, an unexpectedly great IC match, and one of the best Triple Threats I've ever seen.  New Japan was in the midst of a wrestling renaissance, my friends.

The show started with an amusing opening match designed to ease the crowd into it: Akebono, Manabu Nakanishi, MVP and Strong Man vs. Chaos (Bob Sapp, Takashi Iizuka, Toru Yano and Yujiro Takahashi).  This had a lot of kinda goofy spots, like the babyfaces all hitting corner avalanches on all four heels.  I think they did that spot two or three times actually.  Anyway the match was inoffensive but felt like a throwaway.

The proper start to WK7 was Masato Tanaka vs. Shelton Benjamin for the NEVER Openweight Title, in what was pretty damn good for a six-minute match.  Four more minutes and this would've approached three-star territory.  Side note: Shelton should go back to being a babyface, as his style was much more exciting that way. 

Next up was KES (Davey Boy Smith jr & Lance Archer) vs. Sword & Guns (Hirooki Goto & Karl Anderson) in a surprisingly good Tag Title match.  I didn't think I'd be all that impressed with KES, but they've made a solid top team.  Seeing Karl Anderson as a babyface was pretty weird - he even wore light-colored gear.  This was full of action and fun tandem offense.

The first classic of the night was next, between Yuji Nagata and Minoru Suzuki.  This was their third WK match together, and this blew the other two out of the water.  Really hard-hitting action as usual but this match felt much bigger and got the time it needed.  Nagata finally got the win with the Backdrop Hold after some amazingly stiff wrestling.

Whammo!

The show stealer of WK7 was in the center of the card: Prince Devitt vs. Kota Ibushi vs. Low-Ki for the Jr. Heavyweight Title.  Just an amazing, amazing match, and seriously one of the best of its kind that I've ever seen.  These three managed to make a 3-way match flow totally smoothly, where it wasn't just two guys fighting while the other sold on the outside.  And when that did happen, the third guy would show up out of nowhere with an insane spot.  At multiple points, Wrestler A would hit a big move on Wrestler B, only for Wrestler C to immediately follow it up with some huge move on Wrestler A.  Just a breathtaking match you should go out of your way to see.  Low-Ki by the way was able to wrestle at this level while wearing a full suit (in tribute to the videogame Hitman), which is insane to me.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Rocky IV

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com!  Today I'll be talking about one of the most popular installments in the Rocky franchise, the one that probably most evokes 80s nostalgia, and certainly the most dialed-up of all the films.  It's east vs. west.  It's America vs. Russia.  That's right, it's Rocky IV!


After regaining the world boxing championship from Clubber Lang at the end of Rocky III, Mr. Balboa settles into semi-retirement, content to enjoy his life as a wealthy family man.  But when a monstrous Russian boxer named Ivan Drago throws his hat into the US boxing ring, Rocky's best friend Apollo Creed will not stand for it.  No sir.  Creed challenges the young powerhouse to an exhibition fight, things go horribly wrong, and Rocky finds himself in enemy territory, face-to-face with his most intimidating opponent yet.

Like the previous three installments, Rocky IV was a major box office success and everyone remembers it fondly.  Everyone except me apparently.  There's a lot, repeat, A LOT wrong with this film, and for me it doesn't hold up very well at all compared to the first three.  Sooo, let's break this sumbitch down and see what went wrong....




The Awesome


Rocky Nostalgia

I'm a big fan of the Rocky series (particularly the first three films and Rocky Balboa), so even despite all its flaws it's hard to not want to watch this movie when I get done with III.  I also have fond childhood memories of seeing this one in the theater with my parents.  We were on vacation in Newport, RI and it was a snowy November evening.  We were looking for something to do and my sister and I both lobbied intensely to see Rocky IV.  My parents reluctantly obliged, and at the time my sister and I loved this stupid movie.




The Fight

As absurdly over-the-top as the big Rocky-Drago fight sequence is, it's shot and edited with Stallone's usual slick sensibilities and for the time it made for a pretty epic climax.  Drago beats the shit outta Rocky for 15 rounds but can't put him away, Rocky's iron jaw keeps him in the fight and he manages to score the knockout right at the end.  It's basically a one-dimensional version of the second Apollo fight but it's well photographed and choreographed.

I'm thinking he didn't actually connect with that one.


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The History of NJPW WrestleKingdom (IV-VI)

Welcome to the second part of the Enuffa.com History of WrestleKingdom!  Moving right along....


WrestleKingdom IV - 1/4/10

Here at last is a WrestleKingdom show that's consistently entertaining and also has multiple 3.5-4 star matches.  The stars were beginning to align for New Japan, as the notable talents were falling into their respective current roles and spots on the card.  WK4 also featured a New Japan vs. Pro Wrestling NOAH rivalry, as four second-half matches comprised a card-within-a-card.

A quick six-man kicked things off, as Mitsuhide Hirasawa, Super Strong Machine and Wataru Inoue faced Jushin Thunder Liger, Kazuchika Okada and Koji Kanemoto.  This was an okay opener but far too short to amount to anything.  It was very weird seeing a 21-year-old Okada, who carried himself completely differently back then.  Brief but inoffensive.

The show picked up big with the second match, as Apollo 55 (Prince Devitt and Ryusuke Taguchi) defended the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight straps against Averno and Ăšltimo Guerrero.  This was a highly entertaining Cruiserweight tag match, with Devitt in particular shining like the rising star he was, displaying spectacular offense and a great ring presence.  On a more streamlined card this match  would've been the hot opener.

The Heavyweight Tag Championship was next, as Team 3-D defended against No Limit (Tetsuya Naito and Yujiro) and Bad Intentions (Giant Bernard and Karl Anderson) with Hardcore rules.  A decent enough garbage match, and light years better than the previous year's Team 3-D bout.  No Limit and Karl Anderson brought enough workrate to compensate for the other three guys.  The hardcore stuff was very played out even in 2010 and they weren't doing anything groundbreaking.  Also the tables and chairs in Japan are pretty flimsy-looking so none of the big hardcore spots looked all that dangerous.  The whole "Get the tables!" bit clearly doesn't play in Japan, as the crowd was apathetic.  But this match was fine.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The 2017 Enuffa.com Pro Wrestling Year-End Awards

Welcome to Enuffa.com's 4th Annual Year-End Awards! 


Man, what a strange year.  One major company soared to new creative and nearly unprecedented commercial heights (at least for the past twenty years), while the other engaged in one baffling, counterproductiv decision after another, wasting arguably the strongest talent roster they've ever boasted.  Said company's developmental brand, seemingly on the verge of equaling its main roster a year ago, took a step back in 2017 after losing so many of its stars and being forced to rebuild.

Remember a couple years ago when we were worried about New Japan after they lost several top guys?  Yeah, that's all out the window.  New Japan Pro Wrestling delivered on every front in 2017, offering some of the most incredible matches anyone's ever seen, elevating multiple new stars and building one of the deepest rosters in years, and enjoying some of the biggest financial gains since the Great Muta era.  Not only that but NJPW's fanbase in North America is the largest it's ever been (the company promoted NJPW-only shows on American soil for the first time) and 2018 promises even more significant growth in that area.  Shows like WrestleKingdom 11 and Dominion were shining examples of what a stacked wrestling PPV should be, while the G1 Climax tournament delivered easily a dozen Match of the Year candidates.  November saw the company deliver a bombshell revelation, with the announcement that 18-year WWE stalwart Chris Jericho was jumping ship to New Japan, marking one of the most US-impactful NJPW-related stories in history.  With the card set for WrestleKingdom 12, including one of the company's all-time biggest main events, we could see the largest Tokyo Dome crowd since the company's heyday.  It's a very exciting time to be a New Japan fan.

On the other side of the Pacific, WWE took an incredibly stacked roster and used it in some of the most logic-defying ways imaginable.  At least once a month the company presented a head-scratching booking decision that cumulatively wore down fan enthusiasm, until by year's end the brand seemed about as uncool as 1999 WCW.  Let's take a look at some of WWE's more bumbling creative moves of the year, shall we?  I bet I can name at least one per month.

Friday, December 22, 2017

The History of NJPW WrestleKingdom (I-III)

From the wrestling-fixated Enuffa.com creator, who brought you the comprehensive histories of WWE's Big Four PPVs (Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam, and Survivor Series) comes another PPV History series: New Japan Pro Wrestling's WrestleKingdom!


How's it hangin' folks?  Time for yet another Enuffa wrestling history lesson, this time about a major annual PPV that I only discovered a couple years ago.  When Jeff Jarrett's Global Force Wrestling announced they'd be distributing NJPW's WrestleKingdom 9 PPV in the States, and Jim Ross himself would be the play-by-play man, I immediately took notice.  I'd read some great things about New Japan even before this, and saw that over the past four years they've garnered loads of Wrestling Observer awards, but until January 2015 I hadn't seen a single NJPW match.  Then an even bigger announcement dropped: New Japan had created its own WWE Network-style streaming service, offering every major show since the company's 1972 inception all for the price of 999 yen per month (That's around nine bucks for American subscribers).  What this meant was that I'd be able to see WK9 as part of my subscription (alas, JR's commentary was not included, but that's ok).  I was quite impressed with WK9, particularly the consistency of its match quality from start to finish.  For a show mostly featuring talent I'd never seen before, and for which I had no context, this was pretty spectacular.  (Note: I watched WK9 again a few months later, now with the proper context, and....well you'll see my revised opinion in Part 3)  From there I started perusing the library, picking out matches and shows I'd read great things about, and in a matter of weeks I was hooked on New Japan Pro Wrestling.  As it stands now, I'm a bigger fan of NJPW than WWE.  New Japan's product is simple, elegant, athletic, realistic, and unbelievably fun to watch.

So this historical piece will be a little different than the WWE ones, in that I've been a WWE fan for nearly 30 years, while New Japan is still relatively new to me.  I've become quite familiar with the current roster, but I unfortunately won't have quite as strong a historical perspective to draw from.  So I'll be talking more about the quality of these WrestleKingdom shows in and of  themselves, and less about their place in the grand scheme.  But for those of you who aren't yet acquainted with New Japan, you may find this approach helpful.  Think of it as something of a beginner's guide, if you will.  As for you New Japan veteran fans, if I've missed any important details, feel free to comment below!

WrestleKingdom is New Japan's biggest show of the year, held annually on January 4th at the Tokyo Dome (I was surprised to learn that the date never changes, regardless of the weekday).  The Tokyo Dome Show tradition began in 1992 and the event has carried various names, but it wasn't until 2007 that the show was broadcast on PPV and given the WrestleKingdom moniker.  So I'll only be talking about the nine (thus far) PPV editions of this extravaganza.  Let's get to it!




WrestleKingdom - 1/4/07

Like WrestleMania, WK is typically a four-hour event.  Unlike WrestleMania, they're able to comfortably fit 9-11 matches on the card without criminally shortchanging anyone.  One thing (of several) New Japan does way better than WWE is time management. 

The inaugural WK card was sort of an odd mishmash, with only four singles matches on a card of nine.  Clearly they wanted to fit as many guys in as possible, but unfortunately it meant the first half of the show was a blur of multi-man tags.

The opener featured El Samurai, Masanobu Fuchi and Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Akira Raijin, Kikutaro and Nobutaka Araya.  It was basically a comedy match, with Kikutaro (who wears a bizarre pink mask based on the Japanese god of good fortune) complaining a lot and even getting punched and kicked by the ref.  Nothing memorable here.

Next up, current NJPW bookers Gedo and Jado took on Tokyo Gurentai (Mazada and Nosawa Rongai) in a match that saw Gurentai dominate the first half of the match, only to fall short in the second.  Not much of interest going on in this one either.

Great Bash Heel (Togi Makabe, Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano) were up next against former WWE midcarders D'Lo Brown, Buchanan and Travis Tomko.  This was the first match where I was familiar with everyone.  Buchanan still moved well in 2007 but looked pretty out of shape compared to his 2000 WWF run.  Despite this match being eight years ago, Yano and Makabe looked almost exactly the same.  Ishii not so much, as he sported more colorful gear and a weird-looking tuft of hair on top of his head.  If I didn't know he was in this match I wouldn't have recognized him at all (He wasn't given much to do anyway).  This match was ok and didn't overstay its welcome, but was also totally forgettable.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com, where I examine the pros and cons of an entertaining-but-stupid movie.  Oft-times it'll be an old film I liked at the time but later discover to be pretty shabby.

Such is the case with today's entry, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey!


In 1988 the world was introduced to two lovable dunderheads with a taste for hard-rockin' music, Bill S. Preston, esquire, and Ted "Theodore" Logan, who as it turns out were destined to change the world with their special brand of heavy metal, if only they could pass their History exam.  With the help of a futuristic mentor and a time traveling phone booth, these two dummies saved the day and secured their future.

Fast-forward three years and our (second) favorite pair of dopey cinematic metal dudes were back, this time fighting for their very lives against evil robot clones created by Chuck De Nomolos, a futuristic heavy with designs on retroactively altering the timeline.  Hmm, evil robots sent back in time to kill the protagonist?  That premise sounds oddly familiar.

So what worked about this silly sequel and what didn't?  Let's zoom in for a closer look...



The Awesome

Cool Premise/Lofty Concepts

Where Excellent Adventure had a very lighthearted, pretty small-scope time travel premise (Bill and Ted need to travel through time and recruit various historical figures for their high school history project to avoid flunking out and derailing their rise to global fame), the second film ups the ante by having the aforementioned evil robots actually kill our heroes, allowing the filmmakers to show us what heaven and hell look like.  Conceptually this is a really fun story with lots of room for imaginative visuals and afterlife-related gags.  Bill and Ted spend over half the movie as wayward spirits and we get to explore various mythical and surrealistic locations with them.



George Carlin

My all-time favorite standup comedian returns as Bill & Ted's futuristic mentor Rufus, and while his comedic talents are sadly wasted in this franchise, he's always a welcome onscreen addition.

George was the best

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Movie Review & Discussion: Star Wars - The Last Jedi


Wellsir, my colleague Dan Moore and I have each seen the latest Star Wars epic, which has strangely proven a very divisive film with the fanbase (critics have near-unanimously praised it) due to its flouting so many of our expectations of where the saga was going.  Say what you will about this film, director Rian Johnson and his team definitely did not play it safe; where The Force Awakens was a comfortable, satisfying return to the Star Wars mythology, The Last Jedi was downright subversive.

Daniel, your thoughts on The Last Jedi?

***SPOILERS AHEAD!***

Dan: Probably the most anticipated movie for me since...The Force Awakens. I was very much looking forward to this one. And I was left a tad disappointed. As usual, I took my seat and got all hot and bothered when the STAR WARS title hit and the music swelled (as did my pants). I got annoyed right away, as Star Wars dropped a "YOUR MOTHER" joke. In a galaxy far, far away, they seem to be getting old episodes of Def Comedy Jam transmitted to them. The humor in this flick felt more like a Marvel movie and less Star Wars. I thought they tried way too hard to throw in jokes that didn't belong.

We are then treated to a pretty badass space battle. It's got bombs, it's got explosions and then it's got...the longest, slowest chase scene in movie history. As the good guys are in their ships going 14 miles an hour, the bad guys chase them in ships that can only go 12 miles an hour. That's the rest of the movie. It's RIDICULOUS. You're telling me the entire First Order can't scrounge up a ship that can catch up to them? It's beyond absurd. It's such a lazy plot point. They're not capable of destroying ONE cruiser that is JUST outside of firing range? That reeks of incompetence.


Justin: My overall first impression was "Wow, that's a lot to unpack."  This film took so many unexpected turns I'm still not sure what to make of it all.  It'll take multiple viewings to digest, but my initial reaction is decidedly positive.  This wasn't the warm & fuzzy film The Force Awakens was.  Instead Johnson turned everything on its ear, which has made a lot of people very uncomfortable.

I forget the "Your mother" joke, but I agree some of the humor in this film felt like Marvel's antics.  Overall it didn't bother me, but the one bit of forced humor that did get my goat was Luke looking forlornly at his lightsaber.....and then chucking it over his shoulder like an empty beer bottle.  This moment struck me as just completely wrong, like it belonged in a Mel Brooks movie.  I have to think they did numerous varying takes of this shot, and managed to pick the exact wrong one.  Luke should've looked down sadly at the lightsaber for a moment and then defeatedly let it drop to the ground at his side before walking away.  That would've fit the tone of this broken character.  I hope for the Blu Ray release they change that take.

That aside, the extended chase didn't bother me all that much.  Yes it was odd that the First Order would just continue following them, but a) they know the Resistance cruiser can't go anywhere without being followed and b) they know it'll run out of fuel eventually.  Plus I get the impression a character like General Hux would relish the final chase a while before killing the Resistance dead.  Could the screenwriters have come up with something more creative for these characters to do while Rey, Kylo, etc. do the main stuff?  Sure.  But this didn't bug me really.  It's not all that different from the Star Destroyers chasing the Millennium Falcon for half of Empire's running time.


Dan: The slow chase scene just bothered me so much because I cannot envision a scenario where an admiral would have told Vader "Yo, boss, they're like 90 feet away, we have no idea what to do" and that they'd just keep following slowly.  It's a dopey plot contrivance. You can do this sort of cat and mouse thing with a space ship avoiding another space ship quite well, actually. It's called Wrath of Khan. But watching these bad guys chase along at a steady pace is boring.

I agree with that lightsaber toss over his shoulder. Just doesn't make sense for that scene. Some of the choices they made for Luke I just didn't care for. I hate that he was away from the main cast and conflict for the entire movie. I hate that we didn't get more info about his last 30 years. I liked how he was depressed and basically done with the world after realizing the Jedi did more harm than good. But I wanted more Luke. I wanted a kickass fight scene with him. Maybe a bit more than a 10-second conversation with his sister. And for fuck's sake, why didn't he hug Chewie when he saw him?


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Dan's Top 9: Die Hard Characters

DAN'S TOP


by Dan Moore
@SouthieDanimal

Today, the world lost one of the great actors, Alan Rickman. He succumbed to cancer at age 69. I’ve watched him in many films throughout the years, but of course, his role in Die Hard comes to the front of my dumb brain. And what better time to discuss the best Die Hard characters ever than today as a sort of memorial to Mr. Rickman’s work? Here we go.


9. The "No More Table" Guy


We all know him. He's the shiny, hairy, gold chain-wearing, greasy German-but-sounds-Greek gunman that shows up about halfway through John McClane's first adventure.

He's got some real terrorist hubris, asking our hero "Where are you going, pal?" as McClane evades him while running out of table. It leads beautifully into one of John's most sternly delivered action hero quips.

Wild N' Crazy Guy: Next time you have the chance to kill someone, don't hesitate!
McClane (all sweaty-lipped and serious): Thanks for the advice...



8. Richard Thornburg 


The prototypical scumbag reporter beautifully played by ginger hammer William Atherton (That he didn't play that worm Roger Goodell in Concussion is a travesty). He not only invades the privacy of the McClanes' children but he also singlehandedly causes outright panic by broadcasting about plane hijackings on Christmas Eve! Throughout the two flicks he's in, he spreads beautiful lies and propaganda. In other words, he's got a job waiting for him at Fox News.

Music Review: Eminem - Revival


Anyone who knows me well, is aware that I am often slow on the uptake when it comes to certain musical acts.  I'll go years without an appreciation for a popular band or artist and then one day suddenly something clicks for me and I become obsessed with them.  It happened with Nine Inch Nails in 2009, it happened with Led Zeppelin and Rush in 2012, last year it was Stevie Wonder, and in 2017 it was Eminem.  Yes, that's right, a mere 18 years after Marshall Mathers took the world by storm, I became a huge fan.  So I'm a little behind, screw you.

I have historically not ever been a rap guy.  It's a genre that, by and large, I've found varying degrees of obnoxious.  But after Hamilton blew down that door I found myself much more accepting of the form, and with Eminem's viral anti-Trump freestyle video from the BET awards making the rounds I said to myself, "Ya know Justin, it might be time to give this fella an honest listen."  So I did, perusing his entire back catalog (2010's Recovery is my favorite album of his), and then discovering a couple months ago that he would be releasing a new album before the end of 2017.  Thus Revival, as it was to be called, became one of the most anticipated albums of the year for me.

But how is it?

Well, in keeping with much of Eminem's recent releases, the 45-year-old has tempered his lyrical venom on Revival, mostly offering a more restrained, somberly introspective approach than his outlandish, darkly comic early output.  Em's work has always been steeped in autobiography, but on the last few records and especially here, he attempts to make amends for some of his past transgressions. 

"Bad Husband" for example is a bittersweet ode to his ex-wife Kim (known to Mathers aficionados as his everpresent antagonistic muse) for his failures as a spouse ("Not bad people, just bad together"), featuring a poignant chorus hook from X Ambassadors.  Another such tune is the Cranberries-assisted "In Your Head," where he more or less apologizes to his daughter Hailey for thrusting her into the spotlight for so many years ("Hailie, baby, I didn't mean to make you eighty percent of what I rapped about").  Then there is the emotional one-two punch of the album's dovetailing closing tracks, "Castle" and "Arose," which deal with Em's drug overdose and road to recovery, while imagining what might've happened had he not made it out alive ("Consider the last four minutes as/That's the song I'd have sang to my daughters/If I'd have made it to the hospital/Less than two hours later").  This album is rife with melancholy self-examination, including the opening single "Walk on Water" (featuring Beyonce) wherein Eminem strips away the cocky stage persona he's built up for so long and becomes his own worst critic.

Eminem's signature rage is on display as well though; Revival features a pair of scathing political pieces, the first being a commentary on police brutality and racism called "Untouchable" ("You don't have to know our plans or what our intentions are/Our cards are close to our chest, you better show your hands/And put our minds more at ease/Or get shot in the thyroid, comply or die, boy"), the second a surprisingly hopeful but no less scornful rebuke of Donald Trump, "Like Home," featuring a sanguine chorus from Alicia Keys that hammers home the message that we as Americans will rise above this troubling time.  Even Em's verses, while taking Trump to task, ultimately carry a positive, patriotic spin that all listeners can relate to ("But you ain't ruining our country, punk/You won't take our pride from us/You won't define us").

Friday, December 15, 2017

Top Ten Things: Star Wars Characters

What's the haps, folks?  Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!

Well we are in the midst of a new trilogy in the grand Star Wars saga.  I for one loved The Force Awakens (in spite of its admitted flaws and reliance on story beats from A New Hope) and look forward with great anticipation to The Last Jedi.  For me what's worked so well about this new series are the numerous captivating characters that have pulled me into the story, much as their OT counterparts did four decades ago.  The prequel trilogy unfortunately introduced almost no characters I found interesting or terribly memorable, even including the young versions of Obi-Wan and Anakin (the one real keeper for me was Darth Maul, whom George Lucas didn't, um...keep).  So no, this list does not include any characters from Episodes 1-3, except in their respective 4-6 form.  Sorry Prequelers, I think those movies stink.



Anywho, here are my ten favorite Star Wars characters, updated post-TFA.  Here we go....





10. Yoda


The Empire Strikes Back introduced a spectacular achievement in the art of puppetry.  In Episode V, Luke travels to the Degobah system and encounters Yoda, the most powerful wizard in the galaxy.  So strong is he with the Force that his diminutive size matters not.  Voiced by Frank Oz, Yoda provided so many quotable lines and taught us all about the nature of the Force and what it means to be a Jedi.  His involvement in the story elevated its mystical concepts to something much more complex and philosophical than simple magic.  Yoda hammered home the spirituality of the Jedi arts, forcing Luke to reexamine his outlook and grow immensely as a character.  The prequels sadly reduced Yoda to a lightsaber-wielding video game character, but originally Yoda was quite remarkable and represented everything beyond the narrow limits of the physical world.





9. Finn


The #2 good guy of the new trilogy is former Stormtrooper FN-2187, dubbed Finn by his new BFF Poe Dameron.  Finn was raised by the First Order for one reason - to be an agent of death and oppression.  But during his mission on Jakku he had an attack of conscience and defected, rescuing Poe and eventually helping Rey and the Resistance destroy Starkiller Base, before being maimed by Kylo Ren.  Where Finn's arc goes from here is a mystery, but this charismatic, rather reluctant hero played by John Boyega has tremendous chemistry with his fellow protagonists and is a very welcome addition to the Star Wars mythos.





8. Obi-Wan Kenobi


When the original Star Wars was being cast, George Lucas enlisted several unknowns to play the principle characters, but he realized he'd also need some veteran actors in supporting roles.  One such actor was Sir Alec Guinness, who immediately lent this bizarre space movie some credibility.  Guinness brought to life the character of Obi-Wan Kenobi, a former Jedi Knight instrumental to the growth of Luke Skywalker.  Kenobi's primary function in the story is to begin Luke's (and our) education on the concept of the Force.  Through Obi we learn about this mystical power and how vital it is to the success of the Rebellion.  We also learn about the Dark Side and how it corrupted Darth Vader.  Kenobi sacrifices himself so our young heroes can escape, but then as an ethereal being aids Luke in destroying the Death Star.  Obi-Wan represents our first glimpse into the spiritual side of this galactic good vs. evil struggle.  In the prequels Obi-Wan (as played by Ewan MacGregor) is also the one heroic character with any real depth.





7. Princess Leia


The one compelling female character in the saga (yes, including the robotic non-character Padme), Princess Leia Organa taught us all at a very young age that women could be strong leaders, brave warriors, and respected authority figures.  As the story begins Leia is in fact the driving force behind the Rebellion, having stolen the Death Star plans and uploaded them into R2-D2's memory.  When our male heroes Luke and Han first meet her she appears to be in distress, but they soon learn she's more in control of the situation than they are.  By Empire Leia has officially become the leader of the Alliance, and we later find out she is also a Skywalker.  In The Force Awakens she has become a General and once again leads the good guys against an oppressive regime.  The late Carrie Fisher brought to this role a gravitas and wisdom far beyond her years, and helped realize this complex female action hero.





6. Luke Skywalker


The central protagonist of the Original Trilogy, Luke Skywalker has the most clearly defined arc in the story.  We first meet him as a young, impatient farmboy who dreams of an adventurous life in space.  By the end of the first film he becomes a star pilot, a budding Jedi apprentice, and a true hero.  In Empire he is put through a much more rigorous training regimen, confronting the darker side of both the Force and his own inner self, while also learning the horrible truth of his family lineage.  By the third movie Luke is a confident, stoic young Jedi who has fully accepted his responsibility to bring down the Emperor and his own father.  Growing up I always found Luke a bit too white meat, preferring my heroes to be morally ambiguous.  But as I've gotten older the character has grown on me and I've come to appreciate his journey as the main character of the Trilogy.  I look forward to seeing more of the aging, world-weary Luke in the new films.





5. Chewbacca


I'm not sure why Chewie ranks so high for me, but he does.  Maybe it's because I love animals, and everyone's favorite Wookiee is based on an Alaskan Malamute.  I dunno.  But Chewbacca's awesome.  Brought to life by the freakishly tall Peter Mayhew, Chewie manages to convey a full range of emotion and character quirks without saying a word.  It's one of the strengths of the Original Trilogy that so many of its characters and scenes rely on visuals, body language, and sounds to tell the story.  Chewbacca is a prime example of this, and like Boris Karloff's monster in Frankenstein, is one of the greatest non-verbal characters in movie history.  Now let's see about finally getting him a medal, huh??  The poor guy just lost his hetero life partner....





4. Rey


The plucky firebrand protagonist of the sequel trilogy, Rey grew up a scavenger on Jakku but unknowingly possessed a tremendously powerful Force gift, which she later begins to use to its full potential.  It's great to see a female character in this series that brings the strength and intelligence embodied by Princess/General Leia to a new level.  Brought to life by the wonderfully expressive Daisy Ridley, Rey's character arc is thus far the most compelling we've seen in these films since Luke's, and I anticipate some twists and turns in the upcoming Episodes.  Rey is a really splendid, likable character I have no problem identifying with in this trilogy.





3. Kylo Ren


The former Ben Solo (son of Han and Leia) might be the most complex, conflicted villain thus far in the series.  Solo was in the process of being trained as a Jedi by Luke Skywalker before Supreme Leader Snoke sunk his claws in the boy and turned him against his family and friends.  The boy killed his fellow students and joined The First Order as the masked, fearsome Kylo Ren, modeling his appearance and philosophy after his grandfather Darth Vader.  The only problem is Ren has neither the self-assuredness nor the bloodlust of his ancestor and he spends much of The Force Awakens trying to scrub his better nature and give himself to the Dark Side.  As a self-imposed rite of passage he finally murders his own father and attempts to turn Rey into a disciple.  Played as a whirlwind of inner turmoil and uncertainty by Adam Driver, Ren stole the show for me in TFA and I eagerly await the next chapter of his character development.





2. Darth Vader


Mr. Vader is one of the most legendary and recognizable characters in any medium, and probably the greatest cinematic villain of all time.  It took two actors to bring this monstrous figure to life.  Bodybuilder David Prowse lent his imposing frame to fill out the black suit, while the amazing James Earl Jones provided Vader's now-iconic voice, creating a fully menacing bad guy.  Then of course there's that mask.  That samurai-inspired, motherfucking kick-ass mask that's probably sold more toys and Halloween costumes than any other.  Darth Vader begins the trilogy as simply an upper-echelon baddie, but gains significance and depth in Empire when we learn he is also the father of the main hero.  Finally in Jedi his arc is completed when he redeems himself, saving Luke's life and destroying the Emperor.  Despite a horribly miscast pair of actors portraying Vader's alter-ego Anakin Skywalker in the prequels, the legend and image of Darth Vader will forever be burned into our collective memory.





1. Han Solo


The greatest Star Wars character of all time.  Han is the quintessential thief with a heart of gold, whom we don't quite trust when we first meet him, but who ultimately proves his worth and becomes invaluable to the Rebellion.  Harrison Ford initially wasn't even considered for the role, as Lucas had already used him in American Graffiti.  But after helping other actors audition for Luke and Leia, and reading for the part better than anyone else, Lucas realized how perfect Ford was.  In the first film Han was the "cool" good guy, bringing machismo and swagger to the proceedings.  Then in Empire he morphed into a romantic lead and a vulnerable figure, being frozen in carbonite and shipped off to Jabba the Hutt.  By Jedi Han was arguably softened too much as a character, but he still had that sardonic sense of humor and we couldn't imagine a Star Wars movie without him.  Captain Solo got one final hurrah in The Force Awakens, supplying much of that film's levity and swashbuckling, before his fittingly tragic end at the hands of his son Kylo Ren.  As we all know, there is a Han Solo prequel in the works, and I'm cautiously optimistic.  Han is introduced with such a potentially rich backstory and it could be fun to see that play out.  Casting is key of course, as Harrison Ford was a nigh impossible act to follow.  But the character is just such a joy to watch, and probably the biggest reason I love the Star Wars saga.


There's my top ten.  Comment below with some of your picks!  Join us on Facebook by clicking HERE.






Thursday, December 14, 2017

WWE Clash of Champions 2017 Preview & Predictions

We've come to the final WWE PPV of 2017, and what a limp across the finish line it promises to be.  Jeezus, this entire card screams "SKIP IT!"  Why couldn't Clash be a RAW PPV again this year?  There's WAY more going on over at the red brand.  Or, and here's an even better idea, don't do a December PPV.  Leave both brands 9 weeks to build up to the Royal Rumble, thus making it feel more special.  I don't know that I'll even watch this show, honestly, and I don't say that often.


But let's get to the picks.

***I'm leading still, with 68/96 (71%), Landon's right on my heels with 58/84 (69%), Dave's in third with 41/62 (66%), and Dan's in the basement with 58/96 (60%).***



Pre-Show match: Zack Ryder vs. Mojo Rawley


Christ, the team no one gave a shit about has now split so we can see a feud no one gives a shit about.  What a pointless feud.  On a show whose tag division is super thin as far as viable tandems, why break up an underdog babyface team you could use in a Young Stallions-type role?  Anyway, Zack is never getting another push, so there's no chance he wins this.

Justin: Mojo
Dan: Gronk
Landon: Mojo
Dave: Jesus Christ.  Mojo I guess.




The Bludgeon Brothers vs. Breezango


I like that they've repackaged Harper & Rowan.  Harper is one of the most wasted talents on the entire roster - he really should be getting the push Strowman's currently enjoying.  But I'll settle for him and Rowan destroying the entire tag division for a while.  Breezango is obviously getting crushed-- er, BLUDGEONED here.

Justin: The Bros
Dan: Mario Bros
Landon: Bludgeon, who managed to eke out a win against one of my favorite local wrestlers Colin Delaney on Smackdown.  Love me some Colin.
Dave: Bros




Smackdown Tag Team Championship Fatal 4-Way: The Usos vs. The New Day vs. Gable & Benjamin vs. Rusev & English


Oh good, another clusterfuck match.  This tag division needs a shakeup.  The Usos and New Day are the only two real contenders at the moment, with the Bludgeons soon to be added to the mix.  Gable & Benjamin is okay on paper but the magic was with Gable and Jordan.  Rusev and Aiden English??  Get the fuck outta here.

Justin: Usos retain
Dan: New Day gets 'em back
Landon: Usos
Dave: Usos



Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wrestling Do-Overs: Starrcade '89

Welcome to another installment of Wrestling Do-Overs, here at Enuffa.com, where I'll take a famous wrestling event or angle and reimagine it the way I would've booked it.  Today I'll pick apart the 1989 edition of the NWA's flagship event, Starrcade



Starrcade '89 took place on December 13th (a Wednesday - what an odd night to do a PPV) at The Omni in Atlanta, GA.  The strategy to make this event stand apart from all other PPVs was to hold two simultaneous round-robin tournaments, one for singles wrestlers and one for tag teams.  The winners of each tournament would get.......bragging rights I guess?  There was never a tangible prize at stake, which right away raised a red flag.  Still the concept was intriguing and allowed us to see a handful of first-time matchups.

Before I get into my version of the lineup, let's take a quick look at what actually transpired and I'll explain why I don't think it worked.  The card was as follows:

Steiner Brothers vs. Doom - 12:24
Lex Luger vs. Sting - 11:31
Road Warriors vs. Doom - 08:31
Ric Flair vs. The Great Muta - 1:55
Steiner Brothers vs. Road Warriors - 7:27
Sting vs. The Great Muta - 8:41
The New Wild Samoans vs. Doom - 8:22
Lex Luger vs. Ric Flair - 17:15
The New Wild Samoans vs. Steiner Brothers - 14:05
Lex Luger vs. The Great Muta - 4:15
Road Warriors vs. The New Wild Samoans - 5:18
Sting vs. Ric Flair - 14:30

Sting won the singles tourney while the Road Warriors won the tag team round-robin.

On paper there are some top-flight matches here, to be sure.  Flair and Sting were the top two babyfaces at the time and their alliance added a new dynamic to this matchup.  Flair vs. Luger took place at the previous year's Starrcade but now their roles were reversed which made this bout different from the last.  Hawk & Animal vs. The Steiners was a major dream match as both teams were wildly popular and dominant.  Even Flair vs. Muta looked great in theory.

But here's why this card didn't really work for me.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Dead Poets Society

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com!  It's time once again for me to cut open a beloved classic and tell you all why it's not as good as everyone seems to think it is.


Today's example is the critically-acclaimed, Oscar-winning 1989 film Dead Poets Society, starring Robin Williams as an anti-establishment teacher at a prestigious prep school, who forms a close bond with his students and encourages them to be forward-thinking and to follow their dreams.  His unconventional teaching style comes into question and soon has repercussions quite at odds with the school's cookie-cutter approach to education.

This film was a big hit and built on Robin Williams' Good Morning Vietnam success as a serious (albeit slightly comedic) actor.  It would be his second consecutive role to earn him a Best Actor nod.

So why do I consider DPS an Awesomely Shitty Movie you ask?  Well let's take a closer look....



The Awesome


Robin Williams

Dead Poets Society was the second mainstream film to showcase Robin Williams' considerable dramatic chops.  Generally known for his manic, zany comedy antics, Williams mostly delivers a nuanced, understated performance as the benign, free-spirited Literature professor, and we believe it when the students become inspired by him.  The scene where he coaxes a spontaneous, evocative poem out of the cripplingly shy Todd Anderson is genuinely touching, while his emotional breakdown after Neil's death is a briefly heartbreaking moment.  Aside from a few moments where he veered way too far into typical Robin Williams territory, this was a fine performance that elevated Williams as an Oscar-caliber actor.

Stop making me cry, Mork!



The Students

Most of the students are given pretty fleshed-out characters and the performances are generally top-notch.  Standouts include Robert Sean Leonard as the conflicted-but-idealistic Neil Perry, Ethan Hawke as the hopelessly bashful Todd Anderson, and Gale Hansen as the brash, rebellious Charlie Dalton (probably my favorite character).  The students are all quite relatable in one way or another and they make a colorful ensemble of protagonists to guide us through this repressive 1950s setting.

'Tis a good buncha lads....



Locations

The film was shot almost entirely at St. Andrew's School in Middletown, DE, providing a visually striking backdrop for the story.  Its gothic architecture created a suitably old-world metaphor for the stifling, conformist ideas pushed on the students.  The landscapes are initially bathed in lovely fall colors before giving way to peaceful snowy panoramas.  Lovely spot for an academic tragedy.

Seems like a swell campus



Final Scene

You all know it, it's the "O Captain, my Captain" scene, where Mr. Nolan has taken over Keating's class until they hire a replacement, Keating comes back to pick up his things, and most of the students salute him by standing on their desks and reciting that old Walt Whitman phrase (while a red-faced Nolan barks orders for them to sit down).  Sure it's cheesy, it's sappy, it's kinda pedestrian, but it chokes me up every time, particularly considering Robin Williams' tragic suicide a couple years ago.  As an emotional climax it packs a solid punch.

I do love the composition of this shot



Ok, put the tissues away.  Now here's a whole buncha stuff about this movie that doesn't work....



The Shitty


Shamelessly Manipulative

Now look, I enjoy this movie on many levels as stated above.  But there's also a lot wrong with it, most of which comes back to the script being unabashed in its low-rent audience manipulation.  Just about everything I'm going to talk about in this section relates to this theme in some way.  The film dials up certain characters to almost comical degree in order to make us feel one way or another about them, wedges in story developments that don't feel earned, or takes sharp turns that simply aren't believable, in order to get from Point A to B.



Kurtwood Smith

The first of two mustache-twisting "bad guys" in a movie that really shouldn't have any, Neil's father, Mr. Perry, played by the excellent Kurtwood Smith (To be clear, Smith's inclusion here isn't a reflection on his acting ability, but on what the script and direction asks of him) is such tyrannical bastard it's amazing his son hasn't either run away from home or murdered him in his sleep long before the events of this film.  He goes from being a cold, undemonstrative paternal figure to a raging asshole.  There's a scene where he angrily confronts Neil about joining the school play and his delivery is so over-the-top it's unintentionally hilarious.  "Is that clear?........IS THAT CLEEARR!!??"

Hey Clarence Boddicker.  Lighten up a little, will ya?



Norman Lloyd

Same kinda thing here - Norman Lloyd is so reptilian as the school's Headmaster the role may as well have gone to Ian McDiarmid.  Lloyd uses this faux English accent and a nasal, flinty delivery, there's nothing realistic or three-dimensional about the character.  If he isn't laying down inappropriately high expectations of new student Todd Anderson ("We expect great things from you Mr. Anderson, your brother was one of our finest.") he's bashing Charlie Dalton's asscheeks in with a racquetball paddle.  "Evaluate this poetry with all of your hatred, and your journey towards the Ivy League will be complete!"

Christ, the guy's even DRESSED like a Sith Lord



Cameron

I said there were two bad guys in this movie but in the third act the script adds another.  The Cameron character starts as a reluctantly willing participant and morphs into a slimy little informant in the blink of an eye, and this plays out more like a 90-degree turn than an arc.  In about ten minutes of screen time he goes from "I'm not sure about all this insubordination but I kinda like it," to "Let Keating fry."  The character becomes what the script needs him to, just to get to a cheap scene where the audience is happy to see him get punched in the face.  This payoff would've felt much more organic if the filmmakers had the discipline to gradually turn Cameron into a self-preserving jerk.

Nice face Cam.  Be a shame if someone punched it.



DPS Meetings

The most frequent (and titular) example of rebellious behavior on the part of our protagonists is a series of secret meetings held in a cave in the woods, wherein the students take turns reading poems, in between shootin' the shit, enjoying a snack, and trying to impress some girls.  Presumably these gatherings are supposed to be the inspiration for the boys' newfound free-spiritedness, and their love for poetry is meant to spill over into their daily lives.  But the DPS scenes are so awkwardly written and executed the point of it all gets lost, and outside the Society and the classroom the boys don't seem to give the slightest of shits about poetry itself.  It all just comes off as an excuse to socialize after hours.



Knox Subplot

One student, Knox Overstreet, gets a tediously trite subplot where he falls desperately in love with a girl named Chris during a chance meeting at her boyfriend Chet's house (Chet is written as a mindless jock archetype, supplying yet another heel figure).  Before long he's moping around like he wants to off himself, creepily patting Chris's head while she's passed out at a party (and subsequently getting his face pounded in by Chet), writing cringe-inducingly awful poems about her, and eventually barging into her classroom to read her one of said compositions.  The upshot is that she finally agrees to talk to him and even accompanies him to Neil's play, where they end up holding hands.  How quaint.  And then.....well, that's it.  This subplot is completely dropped once Neil rides the ol' bullet train.

Just go in the janitor's closet and get it over with, ya little turds!



Neil's Suicide

This movie takes a bizarre (and pretty contrived) turn in the third act, when after defying Dad's orders to drop out of the school play, Neil is withdrawn from Welton and enrolled in military school.  Unable to face this new future, and too chickenshit to stand up to or even have a heart-to-heart conversation with his dad, Neil goes into the study, takes out Mr. Perry's revolver (Way to leave it loaded in an unlocked drawer Dad, ya fuckin' deadbeat!), and fires a bullet into his brain.  From then on the movie becomes a belabored tragedy, as Mr. Perry and the school launch a full-on investigation so Mr. Keating can take the fall for Neil's suicide.  Keating predictably gets fired and the school goes on with the business of browbeating all free thought out of its students.  The whole thing is way over the top and feels unearned and manufactured, as though the filmmakers couldn't figure out a resolution that would be both memorable and plausible.  Once Neil's gone all the subplots are forgotten about and the movie hurtles toward the final victimization of Mr. Keating, so we can get a tearful climax.  And with that we've come full-circle; this movie is shamelessly manipulative; a tearjerker just for the sake of being a tearjerker.

They forgot to add the brains all over the floor



Nitpicks

-There's a scene where Keating is making all the students laugh by reading Shakespeare in different voices, such as John Wayne and Marlon Brando.  But his Brando impression is clearly based on The Godfather, a film that wouldn't come out until 13 years after this film takes place.  Also this scene strikes me as a blatant case of shoehorning Robin Williams' standup schtick into the film.

-I get that "carpe diem" is supposed to be the movie's catchphrase, but would high school students honestly adopt it as such?  By the same token would Knox, upon completing a promising phone call with Chris, the girl he's hot for, yell out "YAWP!!" just because he learned about the Walt Whitman poem in class?  This all seemed very forced to me, like the filmmakers were hoping high school students everywhere would start talking like this.

-The whole situation with Keating goes to hell within one semester of his tenure at Welton.  Well, that escalated quickly.  Seems like a teacher with a penchant for turning kids defiant that fast would never have been hired at such a stuffy, conformist school.  He must be a helluva bullshit artist at those job interviews.

-How did Mr. Perry pull Neil out of Welton and enroll him in the other school so damn fast?  The way he announces it, it sounds like he made a couple phone calls on the way home from the theater.  The Admissions offices wouldn't be open, nor would a new school enroll the kid without receiving a deposit.

-Is it really believable that a school would outright blame a teacher for one of his students committing suicide at home?  I get that they needed a scapegoat, but this seems like quite a stretch.  Moreover the school conducts this little investigation into a student's death, apparently without ever contacting the authorities.

-As much as I like the final scene as a way to close a movie, it kinda doesn't hold up as a real-life scenario.  After Keating leaves the room, then what?  Do all the kids standing on their desks get expelled?  Does the class just resume as it was?  Does Nolan ease up a bit on the students (This seems implausible)?  It's a scene designed to create a moving, dramatic moment but it can't really ever have a satisfying resolution.

-Roger Ebert mentioned this in his review at the time, but how is there no mention of the beatnik writers and poets, in this 1950s-set film about poetry?

-Presumably the whole point of this movie is "Be yourself, be nonconformist, challenge authority," yes?  But look what happens to the three characters who most embody that philosophy - one gets fired, one gets expelled, one kills himself.  What are we supposed to take away from this movie again??



Conclusion

As I said earlier, I do like many things about this film.  When it's on cable or streaming I almost always have to sit down at watch at least part of it.  It's been ingrained in my memory since my early teen years, and thanks largely to a fine Robin Williams performance it's become THE prep school movie for most people (although I consider 1992's School Ties superior).  But unfortunately Dead Poets Society's story scarcely holds up to scrutiny.  It's ironic that this movie won Best Original Screenplay, when the writing is really its biggest problem.  It's a pandering script that seems to take on more than it can handle and isn't prepared to resolve almost any of it in a satisfying way.  A shame really, there's a very good film in here somewhere....


Well that does it for today's lesson.  Don't forget to read Chapters 4 and 5 of your Understanding Poetry textbook for next time.....

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Monday, December 11, 2017

Top Ten Things: Marx Brothers Films

Welcome to Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com, where I talk about things.  Ten things.  The top ten things.  See?


Today what's on my brain is the Marx Brothers.  You know 'em, you love 'em.  Groucho!  Chico!  Harpo!  Zeppo (sometimes)!  Born Julius, Leonard, Adolph (later Arthur), and Herbert, the Marxes (along with a fifth brother Gummo) honed their craft for years on the Vaudeville circuit before gaining notoriety with three Broadway hits, and from there they swept the nation as movie stars.  Boasting incredible onscreen chemistry fueled by Groucho's unparalleled wit, Chico's hilariously sleazy Italian character, and Harpo's astonishing gift for pantomime, the Marx Brothers left an indelible mark on both cinema and comedy, with a 15-year film career that spawned numerous timeless classics.

Here are the Marx Brothers' ten best films, according to me....




10. The Big Store


The Marxes' intended final film was this 1941 farce set in a department store whose co-owner has hired private detectives (Groucho, Harpo & Chico) to investigate a plot by the store manager to murder her nephew.  It lacks the urgency and inventiveness of their prime years but does include its share of silly set pieces one would expect from a Marx Brothers movie.  The Marxes would come out of retirement to make A Night in Casablanca in 1947 (after Chico revealed he owed large gambling debts), but The Big Store was billed as their swan song.





9. Room Service


Based on a 1937 play, Room Service was the only Marx film not written specifically for the brothers.  It concerns a stage producer and his ragtag crew going to any lengths necessary not to be evicted from their hotel room before the opening performance, and while fairly screwball, features the Marx Brothers at their most restrained.  This was also the first Marx film to abandon the traditional character relationships between Groucho, Harpo and Chico.  In this film Harpo and Chico's characters work for Groucho and the three are in cahoots from the start; in this respect as much as any other, Room Service doesn't quite feel like a Marx film, but it does at least feature a little of their trademark onscreen mischief.





8. Monkey Business


The first Marx film not based on a play was their third overall, about four stowaways who run amok on a cruise ship and fall in with two separate warring gangs.  Monkey Business is a rather odd film, in that a story arc is put into place but multiple threads are left unresolved, such as the protagonists evading the authorities, Groucho's romance with Thelma Todd's character, the aftermath of the kidnapping and rescue of Joe's daughter, etc.  Also notable about this film is the lack of musical numbers other than Chico and Harpo's instrumental solos.  Monkey Business is definitely my least favorite of the Paramount movies and I can't help wondering why they didn't instead make a film version of I'll Say She Is, particularly given the way they shoehorned in the Maurice Chevaille bit from that play.  Still this movie isn't without its charm.


Friday, December 8, 2017

Ten Christmas Gifts That Changed My Life

What's up folks?  Well it's Christmastime, and that means hanging lights, trimming trees, and buying presents for your loved ones so they can promptly return 'em to the store on the 26th.  But this time of year always triggers childhood memories of how magical it all used to be.  The seemingly endless suspense of wondering what cool shit your parents Santa was gonna leave you, the seemingly endless get-togethers with the extended family on Christmas Day, while you're bored shitless just waiting to get back to all your new toys, the seemingly instantaneous week off from school before that sad, lonely return on January 2nd, when you and your school friends compared Christmas toy hauls.


And speaking of Christmas toys, I got to thinking, what were my favorite gifts over the years?  Which December 25th surprises made my big toe shoot up in my boot, as Little Richard would say?  Well lemme take you back to a simpler time.....




1978: Muppet Drum Kit


My big Christmas gift at age three was a toy drum set with pictures of the Muppet Show band Dr. Teeth on it.  I fell in love with this stupid kit instantly, and while I never actually learned to play the drums, I had a grand ol' time beating the crap outta those skins.  It outlived its novelty and usefulness within a couple years, but this was the fist major gift I ever remember getting.  For me it's what set the tone for this massive December festival so many of us hold dear.





1982: Atari 2600


I imagine my household was one of millions that got this console for Christmas around this time.  Our big family gift in 1982 was the legendary Atari 2600, which came with the incredibly diverse Combat (featuring tank battles, airplane battles, boat battles, and any other 4-bit vehicles you could blow up real good), but my parents also picked up Asteroids, Surround (which I loved because it was essentially Tron's "light cycle" sequence), and Video Olympics (a massive collection of sports games that utilized the "paddle" controllers), plus a couple other games I can't recall at the moment.  This console became our very lives for a few years, and the whole family enjoyed it.  Everyone who was anyone in the early 80s had one of these damn things, and the game cartridges were plentiful.  By 1985 we had probably 30 games, and it wasn't until '86/'87 that another game console had taken its place in America's heart....





1982: Castle Grayskull


My other big gift in '82 was this classic He-Man playset, a badass-looking castle with a ton of accessories but in retrospect, very little playability (A castle with only two floors?  And an elevator??  And a laser cannon???  The hell sense does that make?).  But at age 7 I didn't care, this thing was fuckin' fantastic.  I had a handful of the figures by this point and played with this castle like it was my job.  A few years later Snake Mountain followed and now I had lairs for both the heroes and villains.  Now that I think about it, who exactly was supposed to live in Castle Grayskull?  Was it He-Man's house?  I dunno.

Seriously, why would an ancient castle have an elevator??


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Top Ten Things: Coen Brothers Films

Welcome to Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com, where I'll count down my ten favorite something-or-others....


Today's topic is Joel and Ethan Coen, the co-director brothers who specialize in strange characters, meticulously crafted dialogue, and sometimes head-scratching endings.  The Coens have built a tremendously diverse and idiosyncratic slate of films spanning multiple genres, often involving film noir elements and seedy criminals, but sometimes taking the form of a sardonic comedy or scathing satire.  I've been a fan of theirs more or less since they debuted with Blood Simple, but it was in the mid-90s that Joel and Ethan reached their full potential, and they've helmed multiple classics over the past thirty years.

But which Coen films are the best?  Let's look at the top ten now, shall we?




10. A Serious Man


This uncomfortable dark comedy about a physics professor whose life begins spiraling out of control was quietly nominated for multiple Oscars and largely flew under the radar.  Michael Stuhlbarg stars as Larry Gopnik, a husband and father of two whose wife wants to leave him for his best friend, and whose slightly delinquent kids don't respect him.  Stuhlbarg carries the film with an understatedly comic performance, reacting to each new hardship with annoyed disbelief.  The Larry character reminds me a bit of Barton Fink in that he never seems to give up hope or accept that he's simply screwed.  The film has a philosophical tone but ultimately appears to arrive at the conclusion that bad things sometimes happen to people just because.  An unexpectedly strong inclusion to the Coens' filmography.





9. Raising Arizona


This zany western-comedy stars Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter as a robber and cop, respectively, who inexplicably fall in love and decide to steal a baby from a rich couple who has just had quintuplets.  But soon Cage's ex-cellmates escape prison and pay him a visit, and he goes back to armed robbery, while the baby's actual parents hire a grizzled bounty hunter to retrieve their child.  The film blends screwball elements with those of Mad Max to show off the Coens' bizarre sense of humor, and also marks their first of several brilliant collaborations with John Goodman.





8. Barton Fink


Possibly the weirdest Coen Brothers film is this dark, moody period piece set in 1941, about a playwright-turned-screenwriter plagued with writer's block.  John Turturro's title character lives in a Hollywood hotel and befriends his next door neighbor Charlie (John Goodman), who turns out to be a brutal serial killer.  This psychological drama was written over three weeks while Joel and Ethan struggled to complete the Miller's Crossing script, and though difficult to fully categorize, contains elements of film noir, horror and surrealism.  Barton Fink is read by some as symbolic of the rise of fascism in Eastern Europe, while others see it as a parable about a man trapped in Hell.  Whatever the interpretation, Barton Fink is a darkly unique, haunting entry in the Coen pantheon.